Here's a quote from Larry Baer:
"We’re mindful of the Dodgers," Baer said. "We’d be crazy to say we’re not. Maybe it’s a little bit like New York and Boston in a lot of the years. We’re fine with not matching them dollar for dollar because when it comes down to it, it’s an art, not a science, and it comes down to judgments. Drafting Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, et cetera . . . Those were judgment calls, not money calls.
Let's annotate that:
"We’re mindful of the Dodgers1," Baer said. "We’d be crazy to say we’re not. Maybe it’s a little bit like New York and Boston in a lot of the years2. We’re fine with not matching them dollar for dollar because when it comes down to it, it’s an art, not a science3, and it comes down to judgments. Drafting Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, et cetera . . . Those were judgment calls, not money calls4.
1. Just making sure.
2. For the first time since 1998, the Yankees will not have the highest payroll in baseball. The Dodgers will overtake them this year. Since then, though, here's where the Red Sox have ranked in overall payroll compared to the Giants:
It's been a decade since the Red Sox weren't a top-five payroll team. I get the point -- the Dodgers are the new Yankees, which is to say, a team on a completely different level. But the Giants still have more to spend before the analogy fits perfectly.
Note: I don't think the Giants are cheap, nor do I expect them to be #2 in payroll to the Dodgers every year. Just pointing out the fallacy. I do, on occasion, have reservations about how they spend their money, and you can read about that on my blog at McCoveyChronicles.com.
4. On a basic level, this translates into something like "development is key", and that's absolutely true. Teams like the Rays and A's can survive because baseball players are generally underpaid for their first six years of service, which is also when they're likeliest to be most valuable. This codified equalizer makes pre-arbitration players incredibly important. When a team develops a young star, they have the RSTNLE of a successful baseball team, and everything gets easier from there.
There's a catch, though. Let me rewrite the sentence:
Drafting Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, et cetera ... well, let's just start by remembering how lucky we were that 24 teams passed on Cain. All it took would have taken to screw that up was for the White Sox to think Royce Ring wasn't a good pick. A different scout speaking his mind for any one of those 24 teams could have ruined everything. And remember how badly we had to suck to get Lincecum and Posey? Quite a bit. Even then we got lucky that the Rays weren't as interested in Posey, or that Colorado wanted a safer pick than Lincecum. Look, I don't want to take away from our great player-development team, but, goodness, did a lot of things have to fall into place.
Pointing out that the Giants were successful without spending a lot of seed money on the players who turned into their most valuable contributors? Absolutely acceptable.
Expecting it again? Craaaaaaazy.
If the Giants really want to keep pace with the Dodgers, they'll have to draft and develop well. If they can't do that, they'll probably have to spend like the Red Sox. Hopefully succeeding at the first part will make the second part mostly unnecessary. But if not, maybe folks shouldn't bring up the Red Sox as a comparison just yet. The Dodgers are out-Yankeeing the Yankees now, but the next time the Giants surpass the Red Sox in payroll will be the first. The comparison isn't perfect just yet.
Also, stop it, Dodgers. Calm the hell down.